MLB Season in Review: Seattle Mariners Pitchers

By Tommy Rancel //

Biggest Surprise: Jason Vargas

When the season started, many wondered who would step up behind Cliff Lee and Felix Hernandez in the Mariners’ rotation. Despite his 9-12 record, Vargas has been a serviceable starter for Seattle this season. Although his strikeout rate was poor (5.42 K/9 IP), his walk (2.52 BB/9 IP) and home run rate (0.84 HR/9 IP) were excellent, fueling a 3.78 ERA. There was some luck involved: Vargas HR/FB rate was a low 6.1%, and his defense-independent numbers pointed to a pitcher whose true skill lay closer to a high-4s ERA than high 3s.

Still, if there’s such a thing as purposeful luck, Vargas is it. The Mariners have targeted left-handed pitchers with low walk rates and flyball tendencies to great success in the past couple years, as Jarrod Washburn and now Vargas have benefited from stellar outfield defense and a left-center field gap that makes homers nearly impossibly for right-handed hitters. In deeper leagues, you should be targeting Seattle pitchers with this skill set in the future.

Biggest Bust: Ian Snell

Not that the expectations for Snell were that high to begin with, but an 0-5 record and 6.41 ERA in 12 appearances fell below even the lowest of expectations. The former Pirates prospect registered just 26 strikeouts while walking 25 in 46.1 innings before being designated for assignment in mid-June.

2011 Keeper Alert: Felix Hernandez

Surprise! If you have one of the best – if not the best – young pitchers is all of baseball, you should keep him – even at a high price in a roto auction league. The man dubbed King Felix by the excellent Mariners website when Felix was just a teenager put up a Cy Young-worthy season, win-loss record be damned. A strikeout-to-walk rate of better than 3-to-1, one of the top groundball rates in baseball on a perennial basis and tremendous durability yield one of the most reliable starting pitching commodities on the planet. Expect nothing less next year.

2011 Regression Alert: David Aardsma

One could say Aardsma experienced enough regression in 2010 after his monster breakout season of a year ago. Not only did his K/9 rate drop from 10.09 to 8.88, but his BB/9, as well as his HR/9, rose from 2009 levels. Yet somehow his batting average against dropped from .196 to .191. He can thank a friendlier than usual BABIP of .235 for that, despite just a 1% dip in line drives allowed. Walking a batter every other inning is a bad sign for a closer, and his BABIP is likely to creep up next season. As a result, expect Aardsma’s ERA to rise; the Mariners will also look to shop him this off-season, and a move to a less pitcher-friendly ballpark could further erode his fantasy value.  

For more on Felix Hernandez and the Seattle Mariners’ pitching staff, check out Bloomberg Sports’ fantasy kits. 

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